Orioles facing longer wait for opening day

Opening day has been pushed back again.

Major League Baseball, maintaining a dialogue with health officials and the Players Association, has determined that it should follow the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that are restricting events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

orioles-opening-day-2016.jpgThe initial decision to move back opening day at least two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic would have put the Orioles’ first game on April 9, but that’s no longer realistic. They won’t be playing until the middle of May, at the earliest, and a June debut lingers as a possibility.

Spring training or some form of it must resume to get players ready after the long layoff. They can’t flip a switch and go back into competitive mode.

MLB issued the following news release this afternoon:

“Today Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. conducted a conference call with the 30 Clubs of Major League Baseball. Following last night’s newly updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) restricting events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, the opening of the 2020 regular season will be pushed back in accordance with that guidance.

“MLB will keep fans updated on decisions regarding plans for the 2020 schedule in the days and weeks ahead. The Clubs remain committed to playing as many games as possible when the season begins. We will continue to monitor ongoing events and undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts, and urge all baseball fans to follow suit. MLB extends its best wishes to all the individuals and communities who have been impacted by the coronavirus.”

Exhibition games were shut down at 4 p.m. Thursday, preventing the Orioles from making their trip to Fort Myers to play the Twins. Now they have no idea when they’ll be back on the field.

Two buses pulled out of the complex and returned in a matter of minutes, leading to the cancellation of the game and the rest that were supposed to follow - including the March 24 exhibition between the Orioles and Mets at the United States Naval Academy.

Minor leaguers were allowed to leave camp on Saturday after a bit of confusion in the early morning. Meanwhile, the Orioles on the major league side have been seeking creative ways to stay engaged and prepare of a season with no confirmed start date.

Some pitchers and catchers worked out at Sarasota High School.

MLB encouraged players to stay in camp and then pulled a reversal, nixing formal workouts and discouraging the informal variety because they prevented social distancing.

Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has been waiting until more information is available before briefing the media again on the latest developments and how they impact his club.

The landscape seems to change hourly.

Players met Thursday night to vote whether or not to stay together, but they’re no longer in charge of making these decisions.

The Orioles have 54 players on their camp roster and a lot of unfinished business that’s been put on hold. Playing a full 162-game schedule no longer seems possible.

There’s also speculation that the All-Star Game could be cancelled to avoid another interruption.

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